Blog How is IT going to deal with an unpredictable future?
A few days ago I came across an article called “Your ITSM program on the second half of the chess board: Are you ready?” written by Harvey Koeppel, Vice Chairman of the World BPO/ITO Forum. It’s something of a cryptic title, but the point of the article is simple: technology is getting exponentially more complex and powerful. That means both a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge for IT to manage the complexity. An opportunity for the business to harness that power. Harvey illustrates this exponential complexity through the “grains of rice on a chess board” analogy. Place one grain of rice on square one of a chess board. Place two grains on the second square. Four grains on the next. Eight on the next. Keep doubling up. Do that for all 64 squares and where do you end up? 500 billion tons of rice.
But what does this mean? Back in the old days I had a BBC B Microcomputer. It had 32Kb of RAM. That’s about the size of a 10-page word document, with no pictures. The processor was powerful for a home computer of its time, but it was almost exactly 1 million times less powerful than an Intel chip of today. My current smartphone has over half a million times the storage capacity of my first computer. It is this power that opens up the door for more and more complexity. Every time CPUs get more powerful, and storage gets cheaper, we ask ourselves “what can we do with it?”
EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) was a technology which streamlined purchasing in shops. But it also gave rise to a new problem and a new opportunity. With the ability to process and record purchases centrally, and latterly to tie that data to customers via loyalty cards, the business asked the question “what can we do with it?”
They wanted to mine the data for information – business insight that would fuel business strategy. Big Data. It’s technical, so naturally, the business goes to IT to get it. That means new software, and a lot of processing power to deal with such high volumes of data. If the evolution of the computer chip had never reached beyond the power of a pocket calculator, big data simply wouldn’t be a problem – and there wouldn’t be an IT department. Big data is just one business challenge that is landing on IT’s doorstep. Add up all the solutions and supporting infrastructure across every business unit in an organization and you’ve got a complex IT estate. Way too complex for any individual to manage. If technology is the problem, then technology is also part of the solution. When you have a hugely complex technical infrastructure, distributed over multiple sites, you need to have a map. A Configuration Management Database (CMDB) can discover and model the infrastructure, and make logical sense of it – providing a business-oriented view of the IT estate and what it does. Too many IT shops get too close to the technology and don’t look at the bigger picture of why they are there. In a recent survey of attendees at one of our webinars, 50% of IT people said that they considered their IT department to be “technology-centric.” 33% considered themselves “service-centric” and only 17% said they were “customer-centric.”
So why is this relevant to IT dealing with an unpredictable future? In order to achieve the sort of agility that IT will need to support and power the business, IT must become a more mature, service-centric and customer-centric organization. The rate of business change is rising, driven by emerging technologies and consumer demands such as multichannel service and support, so IT needs to shift up a gear in order to deliver the goods. Most IT leaders know this, but many are bogged down with firefighting. Reactive support and keeping the lights on takes up 70% of IT’s resources, so there is little room for innovation. Having an IT Maturity Roadmap can help an IT organization break out of the rut. As mentioned, technology can help. Is your service desk so busy taking calls that pro-active problem management is always on the back-burner? Get a self-service portal to take some of the heat off the front line and shift resources onto finding and fixing the infrastructure issues that are causing downtime. Is your IT estate so complex it takes days to find and fix a problem? A combination of asset auto-discovery tools and a CMDB will help your techies find the root cause without even leaving their seats. Is your service desk inundated by the same simple issues and questions time and time again? Think about how a Knowledge Management System (KMS) can help you share technical knowledge with your service users. ITSM technology can help you put out the fires and get up to the next rung of the IT Maturity ladder. At the top of the ladder is an IT organization that is responsive to the needs of the business, and highly customer-focused when handling individual business users with issues.
If you want to find out more about how ITSM technology can improve IT maturity and help IT get better prepared for an uncertain future, join us on our webinar next week, with Forrester Research Analyst John Rakowski: Webinar: Learn how to boost your IT maturity with ITSM